A federal the rent moratorium in the United States is due to expire on July 31 and in Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser says she is confident the city can cover rent and utilities for those who have fallen behind in the pandemic.
“We have enough relief money to take care of all the rental housing debt,” Bowser, 48, said in an interview Tuesday. âGetting in touch with the people who need it, with the housing providers who need it, with all the rules about how you can use that federal money has been a little more complicated. “
Bowser said that a program called Stay DC provide one-time rent and utility assistance for those in need, in which the money can be used to pay unpaid rent dating back to April 1, 2020 or to pay advance rent for up to three months at a time.
“People can get their jobs back,” she said, calling the number of job opportunities “phenomenal”. âWhat we keep hearing from people who might not be able to return to the same job, where they are in job transition, we also want to offer that type of training or assistance. But we have to get people to focus on the return because these programs will end. DC’s unemployment rate was 7.2% in May, compared to 5.8% nationally.
In order for the city to recover, she said workers must return to their offices and tourists must return to the city.
While overall crime in Washington is down, homicides rose 17% through June 28, compared to a year ago, according to the Metropolitan Police Department. In 2020, homicides – most of which are due to shootings in the city – peaked in 16 years.
The statistics reflect an increase in crime in major US cities that has posed political challenges for President Joe Biden, who said last week that state and local governments can now tap into relief funds to hire police officers and pay overtime.
Bowser offered $ 514 million budget for the DC Police Department for fiscal year 2022 – a decrease of 6% from the approved budget for fiscal year 2021. Yet an analysis of approved budgets versus actual spending for fiscal years 2019 and 2020 showed that the city ââspent more than approved in two years. For 2020, Bowser attributed the disparity to last year’s protests and the smaller number of officers in the force, resulting in an increase in overtime pay.
âIf you have fewer police, the police you have will work more. And that’s not the right way to govern, âshe said.
Bowser took a trip to New York this week, visiting the new Moynihan Train Hall at Penn Station as she currently lobbies for her own station makeover. As senators haggle over the details of infrastructure legislation, Bowser has asked Congress to partially fund a $ 10 billion renovation of DC Union Station.
Bowser is also seeking to rebuild the city’s economy after the pandemic without exacerbating current economic and racial wealth gaps. Currently, a large portion of DC’s black population is concentrated in the city’s poorer eastern neighborhoods, which also had a disproportionate number of Covid cases and low vaccination rates. A recent University of California, Berkeley report also found that DC, like the majority of metropolitan areas across the country, has become more racially segregated since 1990.
“There is no ‘quick fix’ to centuries of lack of access to quality homes or schools, so we’re going to have to continue the hard work to get people on the path to well-paying jobs. “she said. .
Bowser said many of the problems the city faces can be solved through representation in Congress – the main reason behind DC’s long-standing quest for statehood.
The bill, S. 51, which would reduce the size of the U.S. capital to federal buildings and monuments and label Washington’s remaining 66 square miles as Douglass Commonwealth, was passed by the House of Representatives 216-208 in April. Senate Republicans largely opposed the proposal, questioning its constitutionality. But Bowser maintains that this is among his top priorities.
âWe can’t think of anything else when a president comes down to your town with the US military. You can’t think of anything else when you don’t have two senators who can net you $ 755 billion during a global pandemic, âshe said. (DC finally got those funds through the US bailout.) “It’s an indignity every day not to be fully represented, when you pay more taxes than most.”